“Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker. False optimism is like administrating stimulants to an exhausted nervous system.”
― Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man
Even Coffee cannot help.
Most every hard working individual experiences burnout eventually. The amplitude of that burnout greatly depends on the person and their circumstances, but once burnout hits it feels impossible to recover. It sneaks up on you when you start to push through your exhaustion until a catalyst of some sort pushes you beyond what you can handle. Much like when water on the edge of freezing changes state once agitated. Burnout is as much psychological as it is physical. Motivation is lost, there is no energy, an inability to think or process information, and it makes progress impossible.
My first major experience with burnout was in college. I was running on three to four hours of sleep per night and poor nutrition while going to class all day, working all evening, and doing homework all night. About 3 months in a very close friend of mine passed away in a tragic accident. I was shocked, lost, confused, beyond upset, angry, you name it. There were still 2 months left in the semester. The loss of my friend sent me over the edge and all of my progress stopped. Learning was impossible, and getting work done was a process of running a marathon in a pool of old motor oil. This is where I learned about taking care of all aspects of my health. Sleep was the need I neglected the most. This event taught me that running on the edge is a dangerous proposition, and I was forced to adjust accordingly.
Losing rest or proper nutrition looks great when looking at all the extra work that could be done with that time, but the longer you’re deprived the less productive you become. This means that time is less valuable than before. I know how it feels to go from 7 am to 3 am the next day, and then start again. Sometimes it’s necessary. Often it is not. So stop and breath. Take a nap. Get 7-8 hours. Regaining and maintaining control is more important than checking another item off the list.